I was upside-down when I first met Tedra Coakley, drying my hair over a couch because half a dozen women were getting ready in other rooms and all the other outlets were in use. Coakley had radiant skin and her leopard heels clicked around the living room as she set up her display of products. An especially conservative friend walked out of the bedroom, made eye contact with a sex toy called Do Not Disturb, and beelined for an open bottle of Moscato in the kitchen.
Coakley's ability as a saleswoman was evident by the end of the night: my friends and I had all spent far too much and were awash with every sort of product and complimentary sample.
Pure Romance is multi-level marketing (MLM) corporation formed in 2005, part of a growing tiered-business trend reminiscent of the Tupperware parties and Avon sales of yesteryear. The MLM strategy revolves around self-employed "consultants" selling products while recruiting additional sales people working their "downline."
In Coakley's world working as an "independent contractor" for the company, her paycheck depends on people in her downline making sales -- and on her ability to host successful "passion parties": women-only events in which a Pure Romance rep peddles sex toys, lubes, and other erotic swag. The company's fine print isn't different from fellow pyramid-shaped business models like Young Living Essential Oils and Ambit Energy, putting Coakley in the same camp as more than 10 million MLM workers in the US, and 20 million worldwide.
But how does one transition from a normal 9-to-5 gig to licking, sniffing, test-driving, and selling a bunch of vibrators and dildos? I decided to ask -- and Coakley was happy to tell. Here she is, in her own words.
Like other ambitious women, sex-toy peddlers are all about the hustle
I definitely didn’t grow up thinking I was going to sell sex toys, or "bedroom accessories" as we like to call them. I did everything I was supposed to do. I did well in high school, got accepted into a good college, and went on to earn my master’s. I didn’t get a job in my chosen field until two years after receiving my degree, and I worked my “dream job” for less than six months. So what was a girl to do? I got into Pure Romance because I thought it would be a great side hustle.
It only takes one sex-toy party to get you on the hook
I had actually dabbled with the idea of getting into this business after attending my first party in college. But at the time, I didn’t have the funds to purchase the starter kit. I never thought about it again until I hosted a party a couple of years ago. It was much better than I had remembered -- a lot of fun, educational, and I never once felt uncomfortable or embarrassed. I knew right then and there I wanted to become a consultant. About a month later, I did.
Ultimately, sex-toy sales are just like any other sales job
On days I'm not partying, I'm following-up with customers, scheduling social media posts, helping my team, taking orders, planning parties, etc. On days that I have parties, I try to keep it pretty chill. I make sure that my demo is cleaned, toys are charged, and all supplies are inventoried. I like to arrive about 30 minutes before the party starts to set up. And then it’s party time for the next three hours!
On average, [I travel] three to four times a month. I will drive three-and-a-half hours max, but I’ve hosted while visiting other parts of the country.
And like any sales gig, you live and die by your commissions
You’re eligible for deep discounts on products [at Pure Romance]: anywhere from 40% to 60%. My discount is 50%, so for every $100 I sell, I earn $50 in profit. That’s just one way to make money. Consultants can earn a commission from their online sales as well as team sales [people who have signed up under you]. Your income-earning potential is as much as you want it to be. There’s no cap. If you want to make a six-figure salary, you can definitely make it happen. You also get free products and swag, free trips, jewelry, and cash bonuses.
The hardest part about what I do is keeping track of everything for taxes! Business taxes are nightmarish.
To make the big figures, you've got to work the system... hard
I know a woman who brought in $80k in one override check last year -- and that’s not all she brought in. You can make a lot of money doing this. But just like any business, you have to work it. You have to know there will be good and bad months and prepare for that. This business might not be as stable as a salaried job with benefits and a 401(k), but I don't ever have to worry about losing it... I don't plan on firing myself anytime soon.
Conducting a breakdown, it really varies depending on your schedule. I put in about 15 to 20 hours a week working my business and partying, which amounts to between nine to 12 parties a month. You can do more or less; whatever works for you. My party average is $520. I have had parties where sales have been less, as well as sales that totaled more than $1,000. Parties all depend on how many ladies are there and how rowdy they get.
The job looks easy if you follow consultants on social media and see posts of the parties and money. Friends and family may help, but you can only party with them so much. You really have to meet people outside your circle.
Sex toys sell, even in the Bible Belt
Some people see this business as trashy and taboo. Someone once told me they thought it was a big orgy. That was an interesting conversation. I’m based in the Bible Belt, so building a business like this can be a bit more daunting here than in other places, but it can be done. I keep doing parties because I know there are women out there who need this. Parties focus heavily on sexual health because a lot of women have no idea when it comes to their bodies.
And it’s not just about sex. Women leave my parties feeling confident and empowered. They’re able to better communicate to their partners about what they want, whether it’s inside the bedroom or out.
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